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Comics A.M. | Four challenges facing the comics industry

Secret Wars #1

Secret Wars #1

Publishing | Todd Allen pulls the camera way back for a broad look at four challenges facing the comics market: the shift from serial comics to graphic novels, editorial changes at DC Comics and Marvel, and the virtual monopolies that comiXology has in the digital sector and Diamond Comic Distributors has in print. How could that play out? “In the best-case scenario, Marvel’s relaunch sticks with the audience, DC restaffs and regains its footing, the Direct Market retailers embrace risk diversification and increase their stock of independent comics, bookstores continue to expand their graphic novel selections. Comics enter a legitimate golden age. In the worst case, Disney and/or Warner Bros. both tinker with their formula of making monthly print comics and Direct Market retailers face a new and uncertain business model.” [Publishers Weekly]

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Rare comics and original art fetch $4.4 million at auction

John Higgins' color guide for the cover of "Watchmen" #1

John Higgins’ color guide for the cover of “Watchmen” #1

Vintage comics and original comic art brought in $4.4 million over the weekend during a Heritage auction in New York City, Artinfo reports. Among the bigger sales were a CGC-graded 6.5 copy of Detective Comics #27, for $567,625, and John Romita Sr.’s original cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #121, which fetched $286,800.

As we noted on Friday, Dave Gibbons’ original cover art for Watchmen #1 sold for $155,350, with the first three covers going for a combined $216,892.50. John Higgins’ color guide for the first cover was bought for $7,767.50. The remaining covers for the 12-issue landmark series are expected to go up for auction later this year. delves into the history of the 12 covers, which were purchased at a Sotheby’s auction in 1993 by former Wizard Publisher Gareb Shamus for what’s been reported to be in the neighborhood of $26,000. The article doesn’t repeat that figure, but it does say what was paid was “a bargain price” (for instance, Higgins’ color guide for the cover of Watchmen #1 was picked up for $50, which was then five to 10 times the usual price).

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Will Archie relaunch their classic characters as well?

The big news of the week is that DC is planning a massive relaunch of its characters. Is something similar in the works at Archie Comics?

Before you scoff, take a look at Archie & Friends Night at the Comic Shop, which came out in trade paperback form last month. (There’s a short preview at the link.) The plot is simplicity itself: A meteor hits Pep Comics, the local comics shop, and somehow this causes a ton of vintage comics characters to come to life, escape from their pages, and wreak havoc all over Riverdale. If this were one or two characters, it might work, but with about 30 or so, it just ends up as a jumble, with the regular cast interacting with a different character in every panel.

What is interesting about this book, however, is that all the characters once appeared in actual comics published by MLJ Comics, which later became Archie Comics, in the 1940s and 1950s. The back of the book includes a guide to the “MLJ Universe,” and what a universe it is! The Archie brass have already reached into their IP vault and brushed the cobwebs off some of their old characters: They relaunched Li’l Jinx as the teenaged Jinx, they plan to give hard-boiled detective Sam Hill his own graphic novel line, and they occasionally sneak Cosmo the Merry Martian into a cover. Could more be on the way?

The difference between MLJ and DC, of course, is that the MLJ characters have been out of the public eye for a while, and some of them look their age. Still, here are a few of the characters I’d like to see come back to life, along with suggestions about how to do it.

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Comics on the iPad: ComicZeal

Almost every comics app—comiXology’s Comics, iVerse’s Comics+,, and every publisher app—works the same way: The app itself is free, but you have to pay for the comics (well, most of them).

ComicZeal is the opposite: The app costs $8.99, but with it you get access to a huge amount of free content. I don’t think the app provides much that you couldn’t get for free* if you put the pieces together yourself, but it bundles everything together nicely and makes it easy to use.

ComicZeal reads PDFs (and RARs) and the file types that are most popular for downloadable comics, CBZ and CBR. It’s more of a reader than a store; the big attraction, for a lot of people, is that they can simply import their existing comics library into it.

Wait, you may be saying, where do you get that existing comics library? Ah. Some people scan in their print comics, which is more trouble than I’m likely to ever go through. This guy bought DVDs of Archie comics and imported them into iBooks; you could do the same with ComicZeal. You can buy comics in PDF form from DriveThruComics, and they have some free offerings, too. CBZ and CBR are popular formats for bootleg downloads, of course, but we will not speak of this. Because to my mind, the highest and best use of ComicZeal is to read public domain comics from the good old days. ComicZeal syncs to two sites that download public-domain comics, Flashback Universe and Golden Age Comics. These sites provide a cornucopia of forgotten comics: Romance comics, space comics, detective comics, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comics, all the treasures of a misspent childhood.

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